26-Feb-2019

Compost – Turn Waste into ‘Black Gold’ for your Garden

 

One of the easiest ways to save money, reduce waste, grow a healthier garden and tread lighter on our beautiful planet is to make your own compost. It’s a product of great value. 

Compost is basically decayed organic matter, made during a process called composting. It’s a vital ingredient for a healthy garden.

A Closed Loop Recycling Opportunity

Composting returns organic matter (anything once living) back into the soil. The nutrients are recycled to grow healthy plants and nutrient rich food.

Compostable items from your kitchen include fruit and vegetable scraps, biodegradable paper towels and cardboard packaging. Garden ‘green waste’ such as lawn clippings and leaves can easily be reused to cycle their embodied nutrient value, carbon and nitrogen, back into the soil to grow more food or plants. Rather than using your Council bins, you could be turning these ‘waste’ materials into a higher value product.

According to FoodWise (foodwise.com.au), “Up to 40% of the average household bin is food.” Whilst we have a plentiful supply of free organic materials, around 345kg or $1000 worth of food is thrown into landfill annually, producing harmful greenhouse gases. When binned, the water, fuel and resources it took to get the food from paddock to plate is also wasted. Importantly, the potential value of a new product (compost) is lost. Food for thought!

As you make compost, you start to put a greater value on items that used to end up in the bin! You start to see coffee grounds, garden prunings, tea bags and shredded office paper as premium compost ingredients. In a sense, you begin ‘investing’ in your soil by making compost. This valuable asset can help you generate a healthy ‘return’ with bigger harvests.

Over time, the organic materials are fully decomposed and become a dark black crumbly soil called ‘humus’. This precious black gold is of great value for gardeners.

You can make this rich resource using a variety of methods and ingredients. For example, DIY or readymade outdoor compost systems, burying food scraps directly into your soil, worm farms and indoor bokashi bins. If you think composting involves hard work or is smelly, don’t worry! There are many options, so you can find a system that suits your lifestyle, budget and personal needs.

I’m working with gardeners all over the coast and help them find solutions for their household waste. Sometimes ‘win-win’ thinking works best. For example, you might only have a small quantity of food waste, a few container plants but nowhere to put a compost bin. However, a neighbour may need more ingredients for their large compost system. Swapping scraps for compost can help both solve this common problem!

What are the Benefits of Composting?

For a minimal ‘investment’ in time, effort and processing organic inputs, the ‘dividends’ from compost can be significant. Besides the personal satisfaction from implementing sustainable gardening practices (reducing household and garden waste, the burden on landfill and greenhouse gases), there are many other advantages.

Aside from the sustainable benefits, you simply grow healthier plants and soil long term. It just makes sense to cycle nutrients from the garden to kitchen and back again, 'closing the loop' on waste.

When your soil is rich in compost, you’re far less likely to have pest and disease plant problems too.

Easy Ways your Garden can Benefit from Compost

  1. Add to your potting mix to hold moisture and supplement nutrients.
  2. Sprinkle over your grass to improve the health of your lawn and reduce the water it needs.
  3. Feed your plants as a slow release fertiliser. Add under mulch.

With so many benefits and uses, every home gardener should consider turning waste into ‘Black Gold’ and enjoy a rich return on investment. I encourage you to give it a go.

Resources

Composting and Worm Farms
Compost and Worm Farm Videos

Written by Anne Gibson, The Micro Gardener
 
About our Contributor:
Anne is a speaker, author, workshop facilitator, organic gardening coach and educator. In 2017, Anne won the Sunshine Coast Sustainable Business Woman of the Year Award. Anne is passionate about inspiring people to improve their health by growing nutrient-dense food in small spaces and offers a home visit consultation service for one-on-one learning. With a focus on sustainable practices and working with nature, she shares free organic gardening tips and tutorials to save time, money and energy at themicrogardener.com.

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